The environmental requirements of winter sports often mean that technology needs to be employed to enable them to even simply take place. Take skiing, for example. This winter, resorts in France were forced to transport snow to the slopes by helicopter after they were left bare by unseasonably warm weather.
The weather conditions inherent in winter sports mean that technology is useful, necessary even, in many areas, both in professional competition and for those partaking in their leisure time. One area in which technology has driven significant improvements in winter sports is in the way that it is filmed. GoPro and other similar ‘action cameras’ have made it possible for skiers and snowboarders to capture every move and every run in high-definition, and they’ve done so at a price point that is highly accessible to the average man and woman on the mountain, many of whom now document their entire day on the slopes. This has particularly benefited snowboarders, because it has brought them a whole new audience through online video platforms like Youtube. Riders that have previously not managed to get sponsorship deals can post tricks on Youtube to get themselves noticed and build a fanbase. Such cameras also enable a far more immersive experience on television for viewers at home.
Another way that technology is having an impact on winter sports is through safety. There are over 40 deaths a year among skiers and snowboarders, and crashing can lead to serious injuries, as famously demonstrated by Michael Schumacher’s tragic accident. There are now wearable crash detection devices like ICEdot, a slim device which can be fitted onto any helmet and alerts the emergency services when it senses that the user has crashed and sends the GPS co-ordinates of where it has taken place. This is linked to an app which provides an emergency identification and notification service, so that first responders get critical health information at the scene.
Technology is also being used to improve performance. Snowcookie is a system that aims to connect skiers to a network of distributed devices that look at metrics that can improve skiing performance. The system uses two sensors placed on your skis and and an iPhone with the installed companion app placed towards the middle of your chest. It tracks your skis and body position, and offers feedback via your headphones in real time that can be used to correct aspects of your performance.
Recon claims that its SNOW2 is the most powerful wearable computer in the world. It is a heads-up display for alpine sports that has the ‘onboard processing power, suite of sensors, and networking capabilities you would expect from a tablet or smartphone’. The Smith I/O Recon has a live speedometer, buddy tracking, jump analytics, and five-times anti-fog lens. The display also projects a 14-inch image 5 feet away from the eye, which means that you don't have to refocus your eyes to view the display.